Articles Posted in Iowa Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court in favor of the Board of Adjustment in this action brought of developers seeking the right to build apartments on adjoining properties they owned in Iowa City and remanded with directions to enter judgment in favor of the developers. After the City denied the developers’ plans, the developers brought actions against the City and its Board of Adjustment. The district court ruled against the developers, thus rejecting the developers’ argument that a 1987 court order allowed them to proceed. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s ruling in favor of the Board, holding (1) the Board should have permitted the developers to proceed in accordance with the 1987 decree, and the developers were entitled to enforce the decree as “successors and assigns”; (2) the statute of limitations did not bar enforcement of the decree; and (3) the Board’s argument that the decree had expired by its terms because “a use [had] been developed or established” on the properties failed. View "TSB Holdings, LLC v. City of Iowa City, Iowa" on Justia Law

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The thirty-day period set forth in Iowa Code 414.15, which requires a petition for writ of certiorari seeking review of a decision of a city zoning board of adjustment to be filed in district court “within thirty days after the filing of the decision in the office of the board,” is triggered when the board posts the decision on its public website, and what is posted must be an actual decision. Plaintiffs filed a petition for certiorari challenging two of the Board of Adjustment’s decisions. The City filed a motion to dismiss, asserting that the petition was untimely because it was not filed within thirty days of the challenged decisions. The district court granted the City’s motion. The Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order to the extent it dismissed the challenge brought by Plaintiffs to the Board’s refusal to revoke a special use permit but affirmed the order to the extent it dismissed their challenge to the Board’s initial recognition of that special use permit, holding that the challenge to the refusal to revoke the permit was timely because the unapproved minutes of a meeting posted to the Board’s website did not amount to “the filing of the decision.” View "Burroughs v. City Of Davenport Zoning Board Of Adjustment" on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Transportation (IDOT) did not have the statutory authority from the legislature to promulgate administrative rules regulating automated traffic enforcement (ATE) systems located along primary roads. The enforcement of the IDOT’s rules resulted in three cities being ordered to relocate or remove several of their ATE cameras. The district court upheld both the IDOT’s rules and its decisions based on those rules. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the rules were invalid and could not be enforced against the cities because the IDOT’s specific grants of authority did not support the rules. View "City of Des Moines v. Iowa Department of Transportation" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals erred in ruling that a taxpayer avoided in Iowa inheritance tax through a private postmortem family settlement agreement (FSA). Here, the decedent, before his death, signed a beneficiary form listing the taxpayer as a contingent beneficiary of his brokerage account. That account transferred to the taxpayer upon the decedent's death. The Iowa Department of Revenue (IDOR) determined that the estate owed the inheritance tax on the full account value. The decedent’s grandchildren sued the taxpayer claiming that they were entitled to the brokerage account under the decedent’s will because the decedent lacked the mental capacity to execute an enforceable beneficiary designation for the account. The taxpayer settled the suit by transferring half the account value to the plaintiffs under an FSA. The taxpayer then sought a refund of part of the inheritance tax already paid. The IDOR denied a refund, determining that the taxpayer failed to establish incapacity. The district court affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the FSA controlled the tax issue. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the district court judgment, holding that, without an adjudication of incapacity, the FSA was not binding on the IDOR and could not avoid the inheritance tax. View "Nance v. Iowa Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The court of appeals erred in ruling that a taxpayer avoided in Iowa inheritance tax through a private postmortem family settlement agreement (FSA). Here, the decedent, before his death, signed a beneficiary form listing the taxpayer as a contingent beneficiary of his brokerage account. That account transferred to the taxpayer upon the decedent's death. The Iowa Department of Revenue (IDOR) determined that the estate owed the inheritance tax on the full account value. The decedent’s grandchildren sued the taxpayer claiming that they were entitled to the brokerage account under the decedent’s will because the decedent lacked the mental capacity to execute an enforceable beneficiary designation for the account. The taxpayer settled the suit by transferring half the account value to the plaintiffs under an FSA. The taxpayer then sought a refund of part of the inheritance tax already paid. The IDOR denied a refund, determining that the taxpayer failed to establish incapacity. The district court affirmed. The court of appeals reversed, concluding that the FSA controlled the tax issue. The Supreme Court vacated the decision of the court of appeals and affirmed the district court judgment, holding that, without an adjudication of incapacity, the FSA was not binding on the IDOR and could not avoid the inheritance tax. View "Nance v. Iowa Department of Revenue" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the district court reversing the Iowa Department of Economic Development’s (IDED) decision (the 2016 action) to revoke tax credits that had previously been awarded by IDED to Ghost Player, LLC (the 2012 action). On appeal, IDED argued that the district court erred in ruling that the 2016 action revoking the tax credits was an invalid collateral attack on the agency’s 2012 action and was barred under the doctrine of claim preclusion. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the IDED’s decision to award tax credits to Ghost Player in the 2012 action was not entitled to preclusive effect that would prohibit IDED from attempting to revoke those tax credits in light of the discovery of fraud. View "Ghost Player, LLC v. Iowa Department of Economic Development" on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Corrections (IDOC) may not forfeit earned time an inmate accrued before his refusal of or removal from the Sex Offender Treatment Program (SOTP). For more than a decade, the IDOC policy stopped only the ongoing accrual of earned time for inmates upon a refusal or removal from SOTP without forfeiting previously accrued earned time. This interpretation was upheld by the Supreme Court in Holm v. State, 767 U.W.2d 409 (Iowa 2009). In 2016, the IDOC changed its policy to additionally forfeit all previously accrued earned time upon a refusal or removal from SOTP and applied that change retroactively. The district court concluded that the new IDOC policy interpretation and application to a certain inmate whose release was delayed by more than three years due to the new policy was contrary to Holm and violated the state and federal Ex Post Facto Clauses. The Supreme Court applied stare decisis and the interpretation fixed in Holm and affirmed. View "State v. Iowa District Court for Jones County" on Justia Law

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The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) lacked statutory authority to issue an emergency order that imposed a quarantine on land used as a whitetail deer-hunting preserve. Landowners challenged an emergency order issued by the DNR to order Landowners to quarantine land formerly used as a whitetail deer preserve for five years after the deer harvested on the property tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD). An administrative law judge found that the DNR lacked the statutory authority to issue the emergency order, but the Iowa Natural Resources Commission (NRC) reversed. The district court reversed the NRC, holding that, in issuing the quarantine order, the DNR was acting outside the legislature’s grant of authority. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the DNR lacked the authority to issue the emergency order and that the emergency order did not amount to an impermissible taking under the United States or Iowa Constitutions. View "Brakke v. Iowa Department of Natural Resources" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who was paralyzed in an accident during a work accident, filed a petition seeking a determination of permanent total disability (PTD) and also sought partial commutation of benefits in a lump sum. Defendant, the workers’ compensation insurer, disputed whether Plaintiff was PTD and resisted the commutation, although it continued to pay full weekly PTD benefits and explore settlement. The Iowa Workers’ Compensation Commissioner granted Plaintiff’s petition for partial commutation. Plaintiff then sued Defendant for first-party bad faith. On summary judgment, the district court determined that Defendant acted in bad faith. The jury awarded punitive and compensatory damages at a ratio of 88:1. The Supreme Court (1) reversed the judgments for compensatory and punitive damages, holding that, while Defendant knew or should have known it lacked any reasonable basis to dispute Plaintiff’s PTD status, the district court erred in ruling that Defendant was in bad faith as a matter of law for resisting the commutation; and (2) the district court properly denied Plaintiff an award of attorney fees incurred in prosecuting the bad-faith action. View "Thornton v. American Interstate Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs’ attorney filed two board claim forms with a state appeals board on behalf of Plaintiffs, signing their names and his own. The attorney did not attach any document showing he had power of attorney. The board rejected Plaintiffs’ claims. Plaintiffs then filed their claim in district court. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims on the ground that their attorney signed the forms on their behalf. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) a claimant presents a claim when the board receives a writing that discloses the amount of damages claimed and generally describes the legal theories asserted against the State; and (2) the district court had jurisdiction to hear Plaintiffs’ claims. View "Segura v. State" on Justia Law